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The first section on the day the goats were released.

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The first section this past Friday.

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You can see the "browse line" in this photo.

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The section to the right is where the goats had been, the section to left is where they had been recently moved.

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Amy Walsh feeding the goats some dry food. The goats get a little pushy about that, especially Toast.

Revisiting the reservoir goats

goats at the Loudonville Reservoir

A month ago the Albany Water Board announced it had hired (so to speak) five goats to clear a brush-covered section of the land around the city of Albany's Loudonville Reservoir.

A strip along the eastern edge of the reservoir had become choked with a tangle of trees, bushes, and vines -- and the slope of the land made it hard to work on, especially since debris would have to be kept out of the reservoir. Apparently it was difficult enough that the water board had trouble finding a contractor willing to take on the tricky task.

Enter the five goats from Heather Ridge Farm as a sort of test of the concept of goatscaping.

So, how'd that turn out?

There are large format photos above -- click or scroll all the way up.

"Everything's gone really smoothly," water board forester Amy Walsh said to us last Friday as we walked along the reservoir.

goats hanging out

The goats -- Blondie, Butter, Cleopatra, Minnie, and Toast -- were grazing on grass at the crest of the slope, having recently been moved to a new section. (Portable fencing keeps the goats focused on one section at a time.) Walsh said the process got off to a bit of a slow start because of the atypically warm weather during the first half of September -- goats apparently get kind of lethargic in the heat -- but she said the four-legged crew had picked up the pace once the weather cooled.

As of Friday, a strip maybe 40 yards long at the end of one of the reservoir basins had been completely cleared, and another similarly long strip had been cleared of underbrush. Walsh said the goats had taken care of the brush. A human crew then took out some small trees and leftover branches.

So it's not like the goats are totally clearing the slope on their own. But Walsh explained that their work on the tangle of brush and vines has made it much easier for the human crew. She said taking down a single tree under the previous conditions could involve 30 or 45 minutes of work because the crew would have to fight its way through the brush, cut the tree, and then try to pull it from the tangle of vines and shrubs -- all while dealing with the slope. And in the goat-cleared area? Walsh said a crew was able to take out about 25 trees in two hours.

goat stretching

"It's a lot better than me clearing that hill," Walsh said to us as we watched the goats start to tuck into another section of brush farther down the slope.

We were surprised at how nimble the goats are, not just on the hill, but also as they stretched to take down branches and shrubbery. The goats could balance themselves on bent-over branches or trunks to reach higher into the trees. That ability allows the goats to extend the height of their "browse line," the point along the tree line under which all the leaves and small branches have been stripped from the trees.

the browse line

Walsh said keeping the goats at the reservoir has been free of issues so far. The animals basically just hang out and do their thing, getting the occasional treat from people who check in on them. (Though we must say Toast is a bit of a treat hog -- and not polite about it, either. Every workplace has that one person.)

The water board is paying Heather Ridge Farm $3,900 to rent the goats this year. It also spent $3,300 for a feasibility study and start-up costs such as fencing.

The goats will be at the reservoir through mid October before they head back to the farm. Walsh said the plan is to bring them back in the spring -- in greater numbers -- to finish up the work along the slope, and then they'll schedule a return visit in the fall to keep down whatever grows back in the interim.

Comments

#goatsrule

This is great that someone had the creativity to think of a non-chemical way to clear the brush. Great story AOA, and really nice photos.

This is easily my favorite story of the year, please keep us updated! Is there a mock reservoir goats twitter yet? I would definitely follow that

Another goat story - wow - the goats clean up poison ivy infestations will no ill effects. https://www.facebook.com/cnnpolitics/videos/990322541009579/?fref=nf

I love this story so much!

Great story - thanks for the follow-up! Missing my chickens for many of the same reasons - they keep things sort of tidy and mosquito free. Oh - how quickly I forgot about the poop . . . that I don't really miss.

Goats were recently used to clear brush in the Hudson Valley, such a great idea.

http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20150929/operation-goat-beneath-walkway-successful-bridge-agency-says

"The goats get a little pushy about that, especially Toast." Oh that Toast! Seriously love this whole goatscaping thing so much..!

as an ex Californian, this was common practice in SF as well as the country. They used large (about 100) herds. One of the best ways to control poison oak -- and the goats are sooo cute.

Like the idea of goats to clean up the hillside but did anyone think maybe in winter you could go in there with weed whackers and do the same job? Yes they wanted to keep the debris out of the reservoir but with the ice it wouldn't be to hard. Do we really need a spend $3,000 to do a study of how to remove the brush.

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